Golf Comment: McIlroy on rise but double Major aim may be setting bar too high

Sam Torrance
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A TREND of the last few years has been for one player to dominate on both sides of the Atlantic: Henrik Stenson in 2013, Rory McIlroy before that, and in the previous season Luke Donald.

All-time history shows that is such a hard thing to do, though it seems that, with today’s advanced equipment, when a player is hot, as Stenson was in Dubai last month, he is so hot it’s scary.

Having finished last year so strongly, I can’t wait to see how the Swede starts what promises to be a hugely exciting year, with the added spice of a Ryder Cup.

Former world No1 McIlroy’s victory at the Australian Open in December ensured he didn’t finish a turbulent season empty-handed and is a great indication that he feels far more comfortable with his new clubs.

He’ll be desperate to rediscover his best form, though I think his aim of winning two Majors is setting the bar too high. Of course in his mind he’d like to make up for last year, but he’d be more than happy with one.

McIlroy is one of the players who will particularly fancy his chances at the Masters in April. The course suits his game and if he gets 2014 off to a flier then perhaps the Major floodgates will open after all.

Stenson and Tiger Woods will also relish conditions at Augusta, as will Open champion Phil Mickelson. His driving had been letting him down at key times but his new 2-wood seems to be working well and I expect big things from him this year.

The Ryder Cup may still be eight months away but two men who look very strong bets to qualify for the European team already are Thomas Bjorn and Victor Dubuisson.

Bjorn is second in the European points list, having finished last season with a flourish. The Dane is probably playing the best golf of his life and, for a player of his seniority, getting points on the board early will be a huge weight off his shoulders.

Youngster Dubuisson looks set for his Ryder Cup debut, having exploded onto the scene last year. He was one of four Frenchmen to win on the European Tour last year – a good sign, with the Ryder Cup to be staged in France four years from now.

The biennial competition with America always brings out the best in Ian Poulter, so it’s no surprise to see him in form and atop the European points list already.

Hopes are also high for Sergio Garcia, after the Spaniard’s return to form in the second half of last season. He may have been pipped to the title by Bjorn, but Garcia’s performance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City last month was magnificent.

Compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez, the old war horse, continues to amaze. Victory in Hong Kong a few weeks ago saw him break his own record for the oldest winner on the European Tour – the question is whether, at 50, he can sustain it and reach the Ryder Cup. It’s a tall order.

Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam